Monday, May 15, 2017

Just for Funsies


I saw this on FB, and rather than write this up there (since my mother does not have FB), I will have fun and see how many of these I can answer here. I'll send it separately to my mother and then she can grade me.

Later on, I may write about how much fun I had this weekend with my wedding reception. I got to spend the weekend with all of my mothers--my two mothers-in-law (mother and step-mother) and my own mama. This one goes out to my mama.

ADULT Daughters... How well do you know your MOM? Copy, paste, and fill-in the blanks. Then tag them to give you a grade.
1. She is sitting in front of the TV, what is she watching? - Either a recorded telenovela or her favorite couples vlogs on YouTube :D
2. Usually, what dressing does she use? 
Either the one that comes with the Wendy's salad or the one she made herself with honey
3. Name something she hates?
Driving in the airport. Also, the phrase "pushing the envelope."
4. What does she like to drink?
Water or smoothies!
5. Favorite music?
Classic soul 
6. What is her nickname for you?
Nicknames? NneNne, NneNne Foofenne, Chich, Chichmeister, Lucinda, Lucy...
7. What is something she collects?
:D Adult coloring books!
8. What would she eat every day if she could?
"Crispy crunchies"
9. What is her favorite color?
10. What would she NEVER wear?
A dress or dress shoes without stockings 😂😂
11. What is her favorite sports team?
12. What is something that you do that she wishes you didn't?
Again, wear a dress or dress shoes without stockings. :D 😂
13. You bake her a cake. What kind of cake do you make?
Good question...chocolate, but I'd probably sooner bake a batch of cookies
14. Favorite animal?
Owl! :D
15. What could she spend all day doing?
Talking, laughing and reminiscing with family.
16. Who is her favorite child?
I'm her favorite daughter. ;)

Monday, May 8, 2017

What Didn't Have to Be

As salaam alaikum,

I was going to write about depression and NVC next, but I want to take a break from that to voice my reaction to an article in The Atlantic that I just read about the two young people, now convicted of terrorism, Muhammad "Moe" Dakhlalla and Jaelyn Young.

For as long as I've had this blog, on this site and the previous one on Xanga, I have tried to steer clear of politics. My quest in Islam was personal, and although I did have real opinions on issues across the Muslim world, I felt too poorly read and ill-informed to make this place a platform to voice them. Granted, I know that doesn't stop many other people from sharing their two cents on the internet, but I didn't want to contribute to that pool. So this didn't become the place where I decried wars, crimes against Muslims, Islamophobia or condemned terrorism in its many forms and specifics regularly.

The exception I made a year and a half ago was my entry on the San Bernadino attack, in which I expressed my fear about the rise of ISIS and how Americans seemed to be spontaneously radicalizing to attack such mundane venues as a company Christmas party. I remember as a post-9/11 teenager scoffing at security measures at a college football game. Terrorists weren't going to target Nowheresville, USA. With the rise of IS and its sympathizers, I was wrong.

I know little about IS and their propaganda other than they exist and they are terrorists who primarily target other Muslims in Muslim majority countries but whose sympathizers have carried out attacks in Europe as well. I feel as the majority of Muslims do--that these amoral individuals carrying out monstrosities in the name of Islam do not represent the true nature of our faith and way of life. I remember hearing about these two young people, Muhammad and Jaelyn, in passing a couple of years ago. I read of their arrest and their intent to join ISIS abroad. I looked at their pictures. I wondered how a young, mixed couple, in particular, a young, African American revert to Islam, got mixed up in ISIS. In particular, for Jaelyn, I wondered how a young American woman could aspire to such an existence. What were they telling them?

I read The Atlantic article and it gave me pause for another reason. Jaelyn's story sounded so familiar to me, especially her growing up story. It could have been mine. Smart, nerdy but isolated kid in high school. Very strict parents. Untreated depression. Cluster B tendencies. Increased interest in Islam in college, starting to don hijab then. The only difference is that she bought into ISIS propaganda, and I didn't.

The other difference was that of 10 years.

When I was her age and searching the internet for everything I could about Islam, posting in my blog, trying my best to join the MSA, YouTube was nascent, Facebook was The Facebook and was open to Ivys and specific colleges like the University of Michigan only, and MySpace was hanging on. There was no Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. Message boards were on their way out. My online quest was limited to reading online translations of the Qur'an on the go, browsing Hadith collections and cruising (painfully) through online fatwa banks. Video sermons and online imams were not as ubiquitous as they are now.

No one knows what is in this woman's heart and what was in her intentions but she and God, and I'm not trying to defend her at all. I'm just startled at how much the beginning of her story sounds like the beginning of my own. I don't think it could have been me, but could it have?

It also gives a sinister spin to my novel in progress, A Rose Much Desired, with the two Muslim young adults, Nisreen and Mo, trying to figure out their next steps. Their stories begin separate and as innocently as my story characters. My characters do make a series of mistakes and ultimately crash and burn, but they do not radicalize. Mo and Nisreen's story is entangled in the new world of social media as well. How much of a reality would this be for my characters if they were young 20-somethings now and not in 2007?

I also recognize that for that one Jaelyn, there are hundreds of thousands of other young black women who grew up isolated nerds with strict parents and resultant depression that do not end up attempting to joint ISIS. No one knows what happened there. And given that the FBI were the makers of COINTELPRO, my trust of that institution is thin, if any. We will not know in this life where their influence began with either of these young people.

But what I do know is that this did not have to be. This never has to be. We, as Muslims, have to stop shutting out too many people as other, not of us. At some point, many current day terrorists were one of us, people we wouldn't hesitate to call Muslims. Some of them were once children, and therefore our responsibility to guide. I am not a parent yet and I do not have answers. But saying that these people are not Muslim is not enough. Once they were, and now they are not, and maybe some of us had a hand in that doing. Socially, our religious institutions are not exempt from structural violence, and by belonging to the religion, we are sometimes its agents.

It's hard with social media, though. In its earliest iteration for young people, AIM, I would spend hours at night IMing friends, paragraphs, monologues, soliloquies about our lives. AIM is the reason that I'm able to type so fast today. It was a world we created of our own. My parents barely knew it existed except to comment on the sound of me "raining on the keyboard" when typing to my friends. In a similar way, young people, especially those who have gone off to college, have a world of their own with many more modalities to communicate on, separate from their parents, guardians and mentors, that they can never infiltrate.

I know the answer is love and connection, and we're going to have to figure out all of the essential spaces in which it needs to be placed.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Life in NVC

As salaam alaikum,

Before my husband and I married, we initiated a book club--a book club of two. We haven't resumed for a while because we both got busy. Malcolm X is next on our list.

One of the books we read last year was Nonviolent Communication by the late Marshall Rosenberg. I had learned about nonviolent communication, or NVC, from my residency program during our behavioral science block. We were taught the communication paradigm as not only a way to communicate to patients, but a way to communicate with partners, family and friends.

Violent communication, on the other hand, is communication with oneself or others that is laden with judgment and evaluation. It may seem harsh to call this communication violent, but once you call it what it is, you realize the impact it may have on you.

For example, once I was busily cooking a meal for my mother and multitasking in the kitchen. I am very happy to cook for my mother, but I also want things to be just so. So when my mother suddenly said, "Are you burning your food?" I startled and ran to the pan on the flame. The food was fine.

"Why did you say that? Did you think it was burning?" I asked her.

"No, I just asked," she said, shrugging it off.

If she didn't think it was burning, why did she say that? I think she just wanted me to check on my food and didn't realize that what she said was a little bit hurtful, like she assumed I would be burning my food.

I mean, accidents happen. I burn food all of the time while doing too much in the kitchen. But if she didn't think I was burning my food, there was no reason to make that judgment. Especially as I had been carefully and lovingly making meals for her and the family all week.


The premise of  is simple, but it's challenging to execute. There are four elements to NVC: (1) make an observation, (2) state one's feelings (3) express ones needs and (4) make a request. Observation, feelings, needs, request. Each element of this formula has it's own chapter in the book which helps students of NVC use it without injecting the violent language of judgment into the formula.

For example, one makes observations free of evaluation and requests that are specific and life-enriching.

So in the example given above with my mother, if I used NVC, I may have told her, "When you asked me if I was burning my food, I felt hurt and discouraged. I want to be trusted as an accomplished and careful cook in your kitchen. Can you instead ask or suggest that I check on the food when you are afraid I may be distracted? Thank you."

The observation was her asking me if I burned my food, my feelings were of hurt and discouragement. My need was to feel trusted (and respected). And my request was for her to instead ask if I check the food if she thinks I may be distracted.

This was hard for me to write. One could write this, which would not be NVC: "Mom, when you think I'm burning my food, I feel like you expect me to burn the food, like you're judging my skills. I need you to trust me. Don't say things like that to me."

Check it. There is an observation, an attempt at statement of feelings, an expression of needs and a request, but they are laden with judgments and otherwise not quite fitting with NVC.

The observation is not a pure observation, but an evaluation. My mother asked if I was burning my food--she told me she didn't believe I was burning the food, and even if she hadn't, I know what she said and not what she believed. The statement of actually not a statement of feelings. Feeling like she expects me to burn the food is not a feeling, and telling her she's judging me is, again, an evaluation of her. To say that I felt judged, ignored, scrutinized or any such verb is relating it to the other person. The NVC statement of feelings should be independent of the other person. That's why my original example included hurt and discouraged.

Finally, the request should be in positive terms and should be specific. "Don't say things like that to me," is a negative request and it is not at all specific.

When our communications are judgmental or evaluative, people are likely to get defensive. The second example I gave would probably not have gone over well. ...and honestly, the first one wouldn't have gone off without a hitch, either. I didn't feel strongly enough about my feelings after my mother asked me if my food was burning to launch into NVC, but just giving an example of how it works.

My husband would sometimes roll his eyes in the early days after we read this book when I would launch into NVC after an argument. Sometimes, he just wants to argue because it feels cathartic to him.

I, on the other hand, do not find arguments cathartic. On the contrary, I find it distressing to have a raise-your-voice argument. Him having grown up with parents who eventually divorced and maybe argued like that, he thinks it's normal. I do not want to deny him catharsis, but I will counter such arguments with NVC every time.

One way to do that within the paradigm is to try to identify, in reverse, one's feelings and needs.

So if he were to say, "I'm the only one doing work around here," I would go backward and try to figure out what observation he made to jump to this conclusion.

"Are you reacting to the floor not being swept?" or, "Are you reacting to the dishes in the sink?" I would continue this without making evaluations until either I or he arrive at the specific observation.

Then I would say, "So, the fact that I haven't swept the floor in two weeks makes you feel angry, yeah?"

And if I misidentified the feeling, perhaps he would tell me. Then, I'd try to identify his need, if he hadn't told me.

"You need to feel as if I care about the house you're working hard to maintain for us, yeah? Do you want me to sweep at least once a week?"

And that would seriously be the root of such vague declarations. We don't argue over each other's household tasks anymore because now I understand that it wasn't so much about him wanting me, as his wife, to do "womanly" housework as much as he wanted to see me do my own tasks (a chore list we agreed upon) as a sign that I cared about the house as much as he did.

I also understand that his main pet peeve is dust. Dirty floor and dusty counter tops to much are just pitfalls of being an active cook in my kitchen. I've watched him cook and pick up every individual rice grain he drops with the pads of his fingers and curse if he gets a drop of sauce on the counter.

When I cook, on the other hand, the kitchen tends towards entropy until the final touches are made and the creation is simmering on the stove.

Don't get me wrong--I don't think in NVC most of the time or talk that way to my husband on a daily basis. But when a communication is important or I sense a miscommunication coming on, going back to that paradigm is helpful for sorting out what we're actually reacting to, what our true feelings are in response, what we actually need and a life-enriching way to request it.

I'm especially interested in the paradigm's take on depression. I'll talk about that later.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Muslim Woman, Non-Muslim Man


I peak out from my blogging (here) hiatus to comment on the spate of articles that have surfaced at HuffPost Canada, giving Muslim women the permission to marry non-Muslim men. Minority juristic voices as well as a representative from Universalist Muslims, a progressive Muslim organization in Canada, produced articles in the last week encouraging Muslim women who do not have Muslim male suitors to consider dating men "of the Book."

I read this and I wonder what I would have thought about this when I was last single, before I met who is now my husband, this time 5 years ago. Would I be heartened? Would I be frustrated? Would I leave with a lot of questions? Would it have changed anything about how I did things?

Let me take a moment to be quite transparent.

Part of the reason I wrote so little during the last five years was not just about me being a busy resident. A lot of it was that I was actively in a relationship with a secular man, it was different from anything I thought I would experience, and I didn't have a space on this blog to share those experiences. Unfortunately for me, this blog had always been aspirational. It was a great place for me to express all the Muslimah I aspired to be while not dwelling on my shortcomings. I don't think I had more than the normal amount of shortcomings, but this place had fostered for a long time a Muslim community when I didn't have my own. It was a place to lay my thoughts down. It was not a place for me to ponder about the day-to-day realities of a relationship with a secular man.

Yes, he was a secular Muslim man, but that was an accident. I'll explain.

When I matched in Seattle for my residency, I knew I didn't want to spend another several years as I did in Boston. A couple of regrettable relationships later, I didn't want to enter residency in isolation, without working on my future. Marriage and family were the things I always aspired to more than my career, but, as I wrote about at the beginning of my relationship with my now-husband, my want for family felt at odds with my faith.

There was a very real possibility that I could be indefinitely single as an earnest, practicing Muslim sister who only looked for the practicing Muslim men. And in that moment of writing that piece--I decided that if I had to sacrifice part of what made me an earnest, practicing sister in order to marry, as ass-backwards as that sounded...then so be it! I would.

So I cast my net wide, signing up to Muslim dating sites and the standards--Match and OkCupid, and I wanted to see who would bite. Muslim dating sites yielded a man, 16 years my senior, divorced with children, as the only Muslim man in the Puget Sound region interested in me. Match and OkCupid yielded more. I was sure to pepper my profile with hints about my religion and my level of practice. I ended up with two men. One who was also Nigerian who seemed to be more fascination with my existence as an Igbo Muslim than anything else...and my future husband.

Just before Ramadan and after making up super late the part of my fast I missed for menses, I prayed istikhara about these men...and probably also about a classmate I had a crush on. I was surprised when the answer was my husband. I was like, really, God? But he's not practicing. He's very worldly. After bad experiences with religion as a kid, he doesn't think he'll ever be practicing. He's sexually liberal. This is the man I'm supposed to pursue?

And I struggled with it early in our relationship. There were times when I considered jumping ship, counting my losses and getting back on the straight way and finding a good, practicing Muslim man, and not a good secular one.

This only lasted for the first couple of months, but I spent the second year of our relationship doing damage control. He could tell I was distant. But honestly, it wasn't just my trepidation because of religious hangups. I was also a first-year resident and that reality was grueling.

Four and a half years after we began our relationship, we've married, amidst in-law problems, questions of race and other upheavals. And since those early days, I no longer question if it is OK that I am with him.

I don't need him to become more practicing. As long as he stays authentic to his values and continues to respect my clinging to the rites of Islam, then that's all I need. His practice may change over time, and insha'Allah I will support him through it. There is no compulsion in religion and we don't pressure each other from either side.

So when I read all of these articles telling Muslim women that they can marry non-Muslim men, my reaction is lukewarm. I mean, I got over needing to authorities to define what makes me more or less Muslim a long time ago. And besides, I was born of a Muslim woman and Christian man. I remember I had some commenter come and to say my parents' marriage was illegitimate. Rando Muslim man, what purpose does it serve for you? Did you rise in God's esteem by telling a random Muslim sister that her parents' marriage is "illegitimate, astaghfirullah"? What would you have my parents do? Divorce after nearly 35 years of marriage so my mother can find a legitimate spouse, insha'Allah. What is life?

I have long crossed the threshold of feeling the need to get permission for what I do or do not do as a Muslim. This is and has always been between me and God. Is my submission perfect? No, but neither is anybody's. This was my path. Was this the best way? Was this actually what God intended for me? Did I misinterpret the answer to my istikhara and if I had been just a little bit more patient, my actual husband would have come along?

No, my actual husband is here, at my feet, working on a presentation. We have a home and insha'Allah we are building a life. We've done it, it's done, and so God willed it.

And in terms of answers for the single Muslim women who are waiting, as I once did, or searching, as I also once did, for their Muslim mate, I say...I don't have answers. I thought that, whenever I did find love and finally marry, that this would be the thing that defined my faith for the rest of my life. I wasn't wrong about that. But it is less definitive than I imagined. I thought that, from this, I would be able to outline for other women "the way" to do things, but I'm not. My way was highly personal and individual. But, having dated/talked to both Muslim and non-Muslim men, this is what I would say to sisters who may be considering it for the first time:

1) Don't hang around with someone intent on converting you: Nope and nope. I've experienced everything from a Nigerian dude who was intent on trying to sleep with me while saying to my friend, "Ahh, she seems open to Christianity," (and I'm thinking, show me where in the Bible is you trying to sleep with me before marriage OK?) to a pastor friend who was interested in me. In spite of my parents working out, I was generally like, dudes, what are you thinking? My dad is Christian but he's not a pastor and has never tried to convert my mom. My mother tried to convert my dad in the early days and gave up pretty quickly. After having a father who tried to convert me for a while, I decided as a young 20-something, "Nope--only one man in my life is going to try to convert me." Not only is it tiring, but in your spouse, you don't want someone who is not satisfied with you unless you believe and pray as they do, as if your beliefs are less legitimate. That is demoralizing.

2) Find out early where you both stand on sex: I was going to write "where he stands on sex," but it really is a decision for both of you. And when I say sex, I mean everything--sex in premarital relationships vs. waiting until after marriage, and not only that, how you both think of sex. Is sex an act of worship, is sex essential in a relationship, how frequent an essential part of the relationship...? Many "religious" guys of other faiths have a lower threshold for scandal with premarital sex. And, quiet as it's sometimes kept, many Muslims have a lower threshold, too--we're just more tight-lipped about it. If it is important for you, or essential for you, not to have sex prior to marriage, then be upfront about that. Will that weed out a bunch of guys? Yep, because that is no longer a norm for our society. But there are plenty of men who will understand and honor your wishes and be in it with you. ...or, conversely, if you decide, upon thinking about it, that your threshold is lower as well, then think about what that means for your relationship. We are not always the gatekeepers--maybe he's the more conservative one.

3) Talk family planning early and often: If you are planning an interfaith marriage and interfaith family, talk about your kids. Everything is going to be super theoretical until actual little people arrive, but still--talk about how important it is for your kids to follow either faiths. And once the kids arrive, keep talking about it. I am the product of never talking about it, and things got awkward for me as a young adult. Will kids get a taste of both faiths/traditions? Will they be primarily be raised one or the other?

4) Be with someone you can be your authentic self with: I think this was the biggest thing. I had dated Muslim men where I tried to up my practice to a level I was not yet at, because I thought that was what he wanted for me. That was so anxiety-provoking. I was afraid of feeling judged by these men. In my relationship and now in my marriage, I am free to be wherever I am in faith. I had space to figure out my misgivings about my practice. He did not pressure or judge me in one way or the other as I traversed my path.

Mmm...there are probably other things, but these were the big four for me. I think number four was number one for me. Could I have found this in a practicing Muslim man? God knows best. But for where I am right now, authentically--this is where I best am.

Our paths are individual. I pray that we all find the partners best suited for us without sacrificing the essence of our faith. Ameen.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Tyranny of Now

As salaam alaikum,

I almost have no words for this time. I'm so happy that I got to marry before the storm, in a time of relative tranquility, in the time of the first President I voted for that I was proud to call mine, flawed and polemic as some of his policies were. I was a black woman marrying a white man in the era of our first black president, born of black and white. We wed in the waning time of hope and progress. We spend our first married weeks in a time of turmoil.

My husband, bless his heart, doesn't want me to worry. My husband, accordingly, is used to compartmentalizing himself away from fear when certain things do not directly affect him. We are both citizens. We will be provided good insurance from our employers. If I want long-acting birth control, I can afford to pay $800 for it out-of-pocket, and we have no pre-existing conditions. He is not from a country on the current travel ban. If public schools go to hell, insha'Allah we'll be able to afford to get our kids into private school. We live on a literal hill, above it all, protected from flood and tsunami, protected in a way that we can be at all times blissfully unaware, if we so chose, to what is happening below.

I am not used to ignoring those things that do not apply to me. Everything applies to us all, as long as we are all human. More than any one group of people in my life, the executive actions of this administration so far has and will affect the people I trained to serve--my patients. My patients are low-income, immigrant and refugee. They are documented and undocumented. Thirty percent of them are insured by my state's Medicaid expansion under the ACA.

When I heard the election results, I curled up in a ball and cried for these people who I've dedicated this big part of my life to, for all of the rights and necessities that would be stripped away from them. In that sorrowful way, I have not been disappointed.

I hurt for my patients. I am trying to find the best ways to be active, but recognize at the same time that I am newly married and have this relationship to nurture. When my colleagues were protesting at SeaTac airport the recent Muslim ban, I was present for a business meeting my husband had at our home. I balance the desire to start a family right away with the reality that I will bring children into. Are we headed for a coup? Will the US see its first dictator? Do I want to wait (even longer than we've already waited) for things to become more stable?

I don't know.

He doesn't want me to worry. This is a man who lived in a communist country, protested as a child, lived as an undocumented immigrant in another country, immigrated legally to North America and forged a gradual road to citizenship. He has seen a lot, probably a lot worse. I respect his perspective.

But I will not sit idly by just because I, personally, will be alright. Because those who I serve will not, and to the extent that I empathize with every patient that enters my exam rooms, I will not be alright.

And this is not to speak of the friends and family members who are more directly impacted.

And this is not to speak of how, with any given tomorrow, this could be any one of us. My new Muslim surname, my old Muslim self, the daughter of an immigrant, the wife of an immigrant...anything.

It's reached the point where most happiness is hollow.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Married, Alhamdulillah

As salaam alaikum,

Alhamdulillah, my husband (!!) and I were married this weekend, on January 14, four years and a half from the date we made our relationship official. For very many reasons, I did not noise about my relationship too much on this blog. One reason was from my husband's express request, but the bigger reason was my respect for myself and my privacy. Relationships are delicate, and while it was fine to share so many thoughts and whims as a single woman musing about the future of my life, relationship musings quickly took things to a much more personal space than I imagined.

Then, of course, there are the politics of dating as a Muslim woman, and maybe it could have been helpful for some, but I didn't want to put myself in the position of being judged. And insha'Allah I saved people from being judgmental and backbiting in the process.

Suffice it to say, over the last four-and-a-half years, we've faced challenges that, sorry to be hackneyed, did make us stronger. We will have more challenges ahead. I fret not, because that is what God promises, but I will be prayerful throughout.

Insha'Allah, I plan to write more this year, but it may not be here. I first began the Xanga version of this blog in 2005 or so, began this blog with describing the love I found in family medicine in 2010, and I have been a practicing physician now for four-and-a-half years, practicing post residency for a year and a half. In over 10 years, the way I understand Islam and practice it personally has morphed and changed. I am in a much healthier place now, alhamdulillah, and I don't feel like I need a space like this anymore to be a healthy Muslimah.

And this isn't just because I am married, but it has a lot to do with the relationship even before marriage. It has a lot to do with me finding my people in my career and training for what I actually wanted to do. It had a lot to do with me being honest with myself about where I actually was in my practice and practicing authenticity. A lot of those relatively silent blog years I spent quietly questioning, praying, contemplating.

I am not done growing, and practice is not a static thing. But I feel like this blog space was a space for my long-lasting Identity vs Role Confusion phase, stage 5 for Erikson, which for me lasted for yeaarrrrrsss and, in all honesty, preventing me from successfully entering the Intimacy vs Isolation stage. It was only when I resolved my major identity conflicts and became, again, more authentic, that I was able to finally move forward with a partner.

More importantly, it was only after I began practicing authenticity that I began to do more to care for myself and nurture myself and my spirit. I am not done, but my spirit vessel is much healthier. In the last year, I lost 40 pounds and became physically fit. I began running, working out intensely and now engage in a much healthier diet. I'm training for my first 15K and plan to do a long run today to make up for my rest days due to wedding festivities.

My spirit, as expected, is much more a work in progress. I have struggled with living my submission organically for years, as I am not one to fake it until I make it. I am comforted by God's infinite mercy as I continue to strive. Mindfulness was a part of my journey, and part of mindfulness is accepting, without angst, wherever you are. I had never done that before. I thought I wouldn't be a good Muslim without constantly striving and for me, constantly striving meant never being good enough and embodying that at all times.

But no more!

Instead of forever imagining myself as not where I need to be, I will be prayerful that my life is long and full enough for me to nourish my soul with exactly what it needs to attain Jannah when my vessel has expired. And if life is not long, may it be even fuller that I nourish my soul. Nothing in life is a destination, I've found. Just like my graduation wasn't a stop-point, but rather a bursting forth of so many other possibilities, so, too, has been marriage. So, too, will be having children, insha'Allah.

On second thought, maybe I won't retire this journal just yet. I may continue to be sparse, but through mindfulness, Ayurveda and non-violent communication, in addition to many other modalities, I've found a way to be a much healthier Muslimah. Maybe I'll focus on that instead. I have so much more to say about that.

I am now married. The thing that I had so much angst about for so long has come to pass. It was a long time in coming. I learned so much along the way and put so much prayer into this union, and will put much more, no doubt, after the fact.

At the same time, I don't hope to come down as preechy or to issue a series of "how-tos." How I arrived here was perilous and messy, as real life is. If I have any advice to give to anyone who is searching, it is to be you always. Be honest to yourself first, and then you will be honest with those who you are dating/talking to. Never, ever purport yourself to be someone who you are not, even if that is someone you aspire to be. Be genuine. Practice authenticity. You want a partner for who you actually are, and not who you want to become and may not attain.

Meet them on earth. Your soul may strive for Jannah, but for now, our souls are here, in grounded vessels, and our partners are before us, also here.

So anyway, here I am, where I've wanted to be for so long, and it is different than I anticipated. I could be hackneyed and say that it is better than I anticipated, but I won't be.

It is more expansive than I anticipated.

Friday, December 2, 2016

If I Were Single


Insha'Allah, my fiance and I are to be married in less than a month and a half. While I make the final preparations for this stage of the wedding (a larger reception with family and friends will be held later), I also make preparations for the rest of our lives together.

Will I continue to take medicine call? Will I take OB call, even? How many hours will I work? It'll be perfect to transition out of doing urgent care during maternity leave if we try for babies soon, insha'Allah...

I also have begun to lament the things I have lost. I'm no longer singing as much and I haven't written seriously nor thought about my novel in many months. Part of me doesn't even feel like a writer anymore, and it's startling.

I've started to question everything else about my life, including my career choice, while I bring my family life into focus. I'm afraid I'm losing myself.

I don't want to.

There are things that used to be meaningful to me, and probably still are, but I haven't had time to explore them. And necessarily, we change with time, I do believe, the case that, God forbid, I'm left to my own devices again, I want to make sure that I am true to myself and make time for the (other) things in my life that bring me joy.

So I wonder--what would I be doing right now if I were still single? What would I be planning, in contrast with what I'm doing now? And don't get me wrong, I don't wish to be single. As a perpetually single woman in my 20s, I did long for companionship and I've been happier than I've ever been in my adult life once I attained it. It just happened that the advent of this companionship coincided with the final stage of my medical training, so there are a lot of confounders at play.

For example, I perceive I have less time for myself in my relationship, but is it perhaps that I had less time for myself as a busy resident and as a first-year attending? I feel like I have changed, but is that perhaps because now I am a practicing physician, and before the relationship, I was not?

Anyway, life would be different, if I were single:

  • I'd still be living in Seattle proper, instead of living in the suburbs to be closer to my fiance. Our family home is purchased, has 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and insha'Allah after marriage I will add my name and it will be our home. I'll be a sudden home owner. But for now, I commute 20 miles to work, which is 40 minutes at best during rush hour and paying 75 cents on the express toll lanes. In my old apartment, the hospital was a 7 minute walk away and my clinic was a 3 minute drive, about 1.5 miles away. 
  • Obstetrics call would be easier. I'm on OB call this weekend, and I'm dreading it. The last time I was on OB call, I managed two labors and attended one delivery. I had to leave clinic a little early and ended up sleeping in one of the uncomfortable call rooms (beds aren't so comfortable for me anymore, after having lost a bunch of weight).  If I had been living 7 minutes away from the hospital like I used to, I would have gone home after the 11pm delivery and slept in my own bed for a while. But since my own bed is now 20 miles away, I often make the decision to sleep in the hospital if I'm uncertain of someone's labor course. On OB call weekends, that means that I'm potentially spending 48 hours in the hospital. It means that I could drop whatever I'm doing over the weekend with my fiance to drive into the city just to potentially miss a delivery. There's also the stress of his disappointment of not seeing me over the weekend because of my call schedule.
  • I would make more of my own continuity deliveries. Two of my patients delivered over the weekend. One I wouldn't have made anyway, because it was precipitous. The other one, I could have made. It was on a weekend night. Again, if I were 7 minutes away from the hospital and single, I would make an effort to make more of my patient's deliveries. But my fiance and I had a bit of an argument a few months ago when I told him all weekend that one of my patients was in labor and that I wanted to go be there for her during delivery but he still ended up feeling like I was sacrificing our time. I was already on call enough, then I would sacrifice our time together when I wasn't even on call to be there for my patient? "All of your patients are special to you," he shot back when I argued that this patient was special. So when a patient goes into labor, I have to take him into consideration as to whether I'll go in for the delivery...which is fair. One day, insha'Allah, I'll also have babies to take into consideration, so maybe I'll stop giving my patients the impression that I'll be in for their deliveries. ...but if I were single, I would be all about dropping everything to make my patient's deliveries.
  • I might be singing more. There is a family medicine band that invited me to sing with them, but they have practice on Thursday nights. Because I work late on Wednesday nights (until 9pm or 10pm or sometimes later, depending on urgent care), I usually do not want to spend any more time in the city than I have to, and I rush back on Thursday nights. I would like to sing with them eventually, but not with this schedule.
  • I might hang out with Seattle people more. Again, not living in Seattle makes meeting up with Seattle people challenging at times. I factor the commute in prior to every get together now.
  • I may go back to dancing samba. I still may check out the Monday night class at some point, insha'Allah in the New Year, but it'd be something to fill my time with.
  • I might be planning a trip to Nigeria with my Dad in the upcoming year. My Dad got to travel to Nigeria after an over 30-year absence this year. I would love to travel with him, but not only are there the concerns of who will then be my husband, insha'Allah, but also, if I am pregnant or with small children, I definitely won't be able to travel for some time.
  • I might be planning a trip to Salvador. I love Brazil and it's been 8 years since I've been (incredibly!). I would go with my new husband, insha'Allah, but...zika. Cases of microcephaly have happened more in the Northeast of the country. And even if I don't get a zika infection, I don't want to have to worry about that 8 week period in which he could carry it in his semen for family planning...
The rest are all big maybes. I don't know if I'd be writing more if I were single, if I'd get back to drawing, if I would be reading more or keeping up with medical literature more. There are also some potential negatives, like I may not have embarked in this body-transforming fitness journey (I've lost 40 pounds!), I may not have started running races, I may not be cooking nutritious food for myself--I may not have been taking such good care of my emotional, mental and physical health as well as I have been relating to someone else.

It is true that I'm not working as many hours as I imagined and minding my hobbies as much as I used to, but that's not a bad thing. I'm also taking care of myself much better than I ever have in my adult life. And those hobbies are not going away. I just came to a critical moment in which I am reassessing what I want to be in medicine, and my practice may change in a way such that I have more time to be all the other things that I want to be in medicine.

Mainly, now that insha'Allah I can now start planning a family, I realize how much this has always been a top priority for me that was for much of my life out of reach and how much I want to prioritize it now. It's more important than my career. I find myself putting some of those medical aspirations aside for a moment, thinking about the women who have said, "You can have it all...just not all at the same time."

But now that I am marrying, there are things that I want to bring back into my life. I want to bring writing back into my life first, and fiction-reading. This year, I have been reading only non-fiction. Literally, I have not read one piece of fiction this year, which is odd for me. I wanted to be a physician and a writer on the side, but I'm finding that I'm also a person who wants to do all of her jobs well, and I can't be a good physician right now with the hours that I'm working and also write on the side, and I'll be a horrible writer if I'm only writing on the side and not devoting more time to it.

I already don't feel like a writer anymore, and that's devastating for me.

And it's hard to to do either of those things well while making a family.

But I can have it all, but not all at once. Right now, the thing that I put on hold is writing. For years, what I put on hold (in theory) was family life. Next, what I'll put on hold is medicine.

That is the topic for a later entry.